Spectral purity and tunability of terahertz quantum cascade laser sources based on intracavity difference-frequency generation
Terahertz sources based on intracavity difference-frequency generation in mid-infrared quantum cascade lasers (THz DFG-QCLs) have recently emerged as the first monolithic electrically pumped semiconductor sources capable of operating at room temperature across the 1- to 6-THz range. Despite tremendous progress in power output, which now exceeds 1 mW in pulsed and 10 μW in continuous-wave regimes at room temperature, knowledge of the major figure of merits of these devices for high-precision spectroscopy, such as spectral purity and absolute frequency tunability, is still lacking. By exploiting a metrological grade system comprising a terahertz frequency comb synthesizer, we measure, for the first time, the free-running emission linewidth (LW), the tuning characteristics, and the absolute center frequency of individual emission lines of these sources with an uncertainty of 4 x 10–10. The unveiled emission LW (400 kHz at 1-ms integration time) indicates that DFG-QCLs are well suited to operate as local oscillators and to be used for a variety of metrological, spectroscopic, communication, and imaging applications that require narrow-LW THz sources.
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